The South Bank Centre, London, UK

A - Queen Elizabeth Hall & Purcell Room
B - Hayward Gallery
C - Royal Festival Hall

The South Bank Centre is comprised of three blocks of buildings beside the Thames near the Golden Jubilee Bridge.  The oldest is the Royal Festival Hall.  Beside it lies the brutalist block that contains the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery.


The Royal Festival Hall

Leslie Martin, Robert Matthews, Peter Moro
Date Built
South Bank beside the Golden Jubilee Bridge
The Festival of Britain in 1951 was a celebration of the Great Exhibition that had been held 100 years earlier.  It was also regarded as something of a "tonic" for a country still struggling to recover from World War II. 

The designer of the Festival was determined to use it as a showcase for modernism and the centre-piece of the South Bank exhibition site was the Royal Festival Hall.  It was designed and built in three years by a group of young architects who were employed by the London County Council.

The Open2Net website article about the Royal Festival Hall says that, "...the LCC's young team was determined that their concert hall should be a democratic building, as befitted the post-war era.

There are no bad seats in the house, and the wide open foyers, with bars and restaurants, were intended to be meeting places for all: there are no separate bars for different classes of concert-goer. Because these public spaces were built around the auditorium, they also had the effect of insulating the Hall from the noise of Hungerford Bridge outside.

The exterior of the Royal Festival Hall was bright white, intended to contrast with the blackened city surrounding it. Large areas of glass on its fa├žade meant that light coursed freely throughout the interior, offering visitors changing views of the rest of the Festival as they moved through the foyers. And at night, the glass let the light from inside flood out onto the river, in contrast to the darkness which befell the rest of London after dusk."

The Royal Royal Festival Hall features a 2,900 seat auditorium used for concerts (home to the London Philharmonic Orchestra), dance and talks.  It is a Grade I Listed building.


The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery

Thomas Hill and William Higgs with Dennis Crompton, Warren Chalk and Ron Herron
Date Built
Queen Elizabeth Hall & Purcell Room - 1967
Hayward Gallery - 1968
South Bank beside the Royal Festival Hall
The Hayward Gallery describes itself as, "... an outstanding example of sixties brutalist architecture and is one of the few remaining buildings of this style. It was designed by a group of young architects, including Dennis Crompton, Warren Chalk and Ron Herron. The Hayward Gallery is named after the late Sir Isaac Hayward, the former leader of the London County Council."

At the river end of the complex is the building containing the music venues.  Of these the South Bank website says, "The Queen Elizabeth Hall is the second largest concert hall on Southbank Centre site, hosting chamber orchestras, quartets, choirs, dance performances and opera. As well as the main concert hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall also contains two smaller venues, the Purcell Room and The Front Room at the QEH."  The Queen Elizabeth Hall is the largest of the venues with fixed raked seating for 900, the Purcell Room has seating for 365.

The Roof Garden

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